Kaysville, UT asked in Land Use & Zoning and Real Estate Law for Utah

Q: Is hiking across posted private property a trespass in Utah? My intention is to get to the other side, nothing else.

Scenario: I am hiking near Zion National Park and come across a fence that says "no trespassing". I'm trying to reach the highest point in Zion National Park but it is surrounded by cliffs (which I can't climb) and private property on the adjacent lands. There is a sign posted that says "No Trespassing", but my intent is just to cross the land to reach the highest point (which IS on public/National Park land). I have read about criminal trespass but I am not doing that. I am just wanting to cross an open field for about a 1/2 mile.

A friend said this to me on FB, but it didn't make sense: "Entering/Crossing private land is not trespassing unless certain conditions are met. If those conditions are not met, it is not Trespassing. Period. I take it the landowner discovered that someone had crossed their land, and called it trespassing, which is incorrect. I have done hikes canyons that included crossing private land, but we did not Trespass. We sneaked - as these are not the same."

1 Lawyer Answer
Kenneth Prigmore
Kenneth Prigmore
  • Real Estate Law Lawyer
  • Spanish Fork, UT
  • Licensed in Utah

A: In Utah, if you own property, you have a right to control who enters that property. Without an invitation, you are trespassing. If someone sues you for trespassing, they normally need to show what damage you did on their property to win money. In unique cases, someone may win more money than normal as a form of punishment to prevent something from happening again in the future.

When you have a good reason for entering someone's property, that is sometimes a defense. If your child entered the property and is in danger, you can go get them without prior notice to the owner. If you own land that is inaccessible except through the owner's property, they are normally required to allow you to pass over their property.

There are situtations that make entering the property without permission a defensible act. Your friend mentioned conditions of trespassing. One of those is actual notice that you are trespassing. If you thought you were on National Park land and not private property, that would be a defense. In this case, it sounds like the notice was pretty clear.

A desire to climb a mountain peak that is only accessible through their property is not an excuse.

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